If this is to be an election of change, it hinges on the Senate. Should Mitt Romney win and the Republicans gain control of the Senate, changes could be made. Even if the Republicans controlled the Senate by 1 or 2 votes, it would matter a great deal. Budget and revenue bills do not need 60 votes to break a filibuster. According to the Senate rules, these bills can be passed under the reconciliation rule which requires only need a majority of the votes. Obamacare was passed this way since Democrats did not have 60 votes after Scott Brown was elected to fill Ted Kennedy’s seat.
Obamacare can be repealed, amended, or replaced under the same rule. Any tax plan that Romney’s allies would bring to the Senate floor could be passed by reconciliation. In addition any measure to prevent our falling off the so-called fiscal cliff would have a strong Republican stamp. Should Romney win and the Democrats retain control of the Senate, none of that will happen. It would be very difficult for Romney to change or repeal Obamacare or to make much progress on tax reform.
The outcome of the Senate races would have less meaning should Obama be re-elected. The Republicans would still control the House; and even if they won a majority in Senate, Obama would still have the veto pen. If the Democrats held the Senate, Obama would still need to fashion a deal with the House Republicans to prevent us from falling off the fiscal cliff.
When we looked at the Senate elections earlier in the year, the Republicans had an excellent chance. The Democrats had to defend 23 seats in which 7 of their incumbents were retiring. The Republicans had to defend only 10 seats in which 3 incumbents were retiring.
Today, however, it looks different. Three seats held by Republican incumbents are seriously in play: Scott Brown in Massachusetts is facing a strong challenge from Elizabeth Warren; Richard Mourdock in Indiana, who defeated a very popular incumbent Richard Lugar in the Republican primary, made some unfortunate comments about rape and is in trouble; and Olympia Snowe, who decided to retire, finds that her seat is likely to be taken by a Democratic leaning independent, Angus King. Should the Republicans lose all three of those seats, it will reduce their number to 44 and they will need to win seven seats held by Democrats to get to 51. Several of those Democratic seats looked like easy pickings last spring. Now they are anything but that. Their best chances are five states — North Dakota, Nebraska, Missouri, Montana and Wisconsin. Even if they take those seats, the Republicans will need two more victory either in Connecticut, Florida, Virginia, Ohio, or Pennsylvania. This will be a stretch.
The most likely outcome is for a Democratic Senate. Even if Mitt Romney wins the presidency, there may be little change. Sounds familiar.